Gift Guide: Walk Your Way Into 2014

As a convert to the standing desk lifestyle, I wondered just what I could do to further expand my alternative loafing lifestyle. To that end I brought a desk treadmill into the home, a decision that I have yet to regret. The model I’m trying, the Rebeldesk Rebel Treadmill 1000 (a bold name, to be sure) costs $749 and maxes out at 2 miles per hour. If anything I can report that I’ve been able to do a few miles a day at a steady, slow pace while still getting work done. Although, thanks to holiday dinners and lots of beer, the waistline has moved just about a pants size down, which is good enough for fat old me.

First, understand that the best desk treadmill isn’t the best running treadmill. The 2 mph maximums that most of these have are there for a reason: you’re going to fall down if you go much faster. While I could see myself hitting a three or four mile pace on an energetic day, I’d rather not risk the head strike when I’m flipped over my desk while browsing Reddit.

Does it help? Take a look at the chart below. Although I was traveling some of those days, after November 11 I was able to consistently push my steps walked up past 10,000 almost every day thanks to the treadmill. Given that it’s winter and I’m a bit sick, it’s a real boon to be able to get some low-impact cardio in during the day and still get work done. And yes, I am walking as I type this and have completed three miles today.

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Walking treadmills should also be solid and sturdy. You can get away with a cheaper, thinner model – plenty of people have and there are instructions for building your own everywhere – but if you plan on using it with any intensity, look into a dedicated, flat treadmill without a front bar and high control panel. Heck, there’s even a DIY system that uses an IKEA work desk.

The Rebel, for example, is about five feet long and two feet wide. It fits under almost every desk and has a small break-out box controller with stop, start, an emergency system, and sleep control. Setup is quite simple: you just plug it in, connect the controller, and attach the emergency magnet. Then you press start. The treadmill starts very slowly at first and then speeds up to your desired pace. The hardcore will probably balk at the Rebel’s top speed – I thought I would, too – but I’m OK with going at a pace that won’t leave me winded as I work.
You can also look into the Tread, an $855 treadmill with a much lower profile that almost looks like a rug. It’s a hair shorter than the Rebel at 54 inches and is just about 5 inches off the ground.

Need something a bit more imposing? Folks I’ve spoken to have had good luck with Life Span Fitness desks, including this massive treadmill/standing desk setup that goes for $1,999. This could be a bit too rich for most holiday wallets, but considering the heft and comfort, you can’t go wrong. For example, while the Rebel is working great for me I could imagine the value of having a dedicated desk attached that I could raise and lower.

Can you still sit at a treadmill desk? Sure, but you’re going to have to do a bit of finagling. When my setup is shut down I like to bring a big fitness ball over to sit on, which allows me to take a bit of a breather between miles. It’s a surprisingly seamless move and I’ve not yet fallen off the treadmill while sitting. Remember also that these things can’t just be rolled away and used as a clothes hamper. The Rebel is huge and heavy as is the Life Span model. In fact, almost any treadmill you bring into the office deserves at least more than a cursory trot or two.

Whether or not you spend a few hundred on a huge, hulking, single-purpose desk treadmill or just go the DIY route, setting up a treadmill desk will do wonders for your energy level, potentially your weight, and that nagging feeling that you should be getting out more. While a nice jog around the industrial park is probably best for all involved, a stroll on a treadmill desk is the next best thing. Just ask my pants.

You can check out our complete Holiday Gift Guide 2013 right here.